How Rumik Made Big Impression In The Big Apple

From Asahi News

January 28, 2002

Rumiko has a job that makes many people green with envy.

Men hanker to be in her shoes when she sidles up to supermodels, while women long for her jet-setting, glamorous lifestyle.

Rumiko is a successful New York-based makeup artist who paints the faces of actresses and supermodels posing for fashion photographers.

Born and raised in Tokyo, Rumiko's zeal for trendy clothes and drawing inspired her to pursue a career as a makeup artist. After struggling to land a decent job at home, Rumiko headed for the Big Apple to forge a successful career.

"I tried everything I could think of in Japan, but I ended up hitting a wall wherever I went," she said. "I decided I had to go abroad. I believed that somehow I would find a way into my dream career."

After getting her English up to scratch at New York University, Rumiko landed a job as an assistant to a U.S.stylist. One year later, opportunity knocked in the form of an outdoor shoot that was delayed by bad weather.

Her boss had another appointment and was unable to hang around, so Rumiko was asked to stand in. The shoot was for the cover of American Vogue and it gave her the leg up she needed in the competitive industry.

"I was very lucky indeed," Rumiko says. "But I had been studying and practicing hard to get ready to take advantage of an opportunity like that.

"Everybody gets their share of luck, but it's easy to miss a chance if you're not making enough effort."

Rumiko went on to become a sought-after makeup artist in the United States for supermodels and actresses posing for fashion magazines.

Her accomplishments across the Pacific also opened doors in her homeland and she now sells her own line of cosmetics through a Tokyo-based business, dividing her time between New York and the Japanese capital.

The cosmetics business, known as RMK Rumiko, took off in 1997 and currently has 52 outlets, including 11 abroad. In the first half of 2001 alone, sales at the stores rose by a double-digit percentage.

At least two major monthly magazines, Voce and Biteki, published by Kodansha and Shogakukan, respectively, focus almost exclusively on cosmetic products and makeup techniques, while these and other women's fashion magazines frequently carry features on popular makeup artists, including tips and product recommendations.

Rumiko has lived in New York for two decades and believes the stiff competition from other artists there helped spur her on.

"New York is a tough city to survive in, but I like living in those conditions," she says.

Having spent so long in the Big Apple, Rumiko quickly adopted the hard-nosed business practices of her peers and she admits her associates in Tokyo probably find her a tough cookie to crack.

"I believe you need to fight if you really want to achieve good things," Rumiko says. "People can create great, new things together when they are willing to face up to and thoroughly discuss their differing opinions."

Shinichi Amamiya, editor of Beauty Business, a quarterly marketing information journal, says the success of Rumiko's RMK brand lies in the unique New York-Japan flavor of the products.

"Consumers are interested in learning about a successful New York-based Japanese stylist-they want to know about Rumiko's personality, her style of applying makeup and her cosmetics line," Amamiya says.

After so long and so much success in the Big Apple, it is no wonder Rumiko feels more at home there than in her motherland.

"Grown-ups get the respect they deserve for their maturity in New York," she says.

Her biggest complaint about Japan is the emphasis paid to appearance and youth.

"I didn't like New York at first because it was different from the image I had of it," she says, admitting she succumbed to the common Japanese stereotype that all New Yorkers would look like they had just stepped out of an ad.

After living there 10 years, however, Rumiko grew to appreciate New Yorkers and what she describes as "their healthy individualism and friendliness, and the vitality and self-control they exercise to attain their goals."

This attitude, Rumiko says, "has nothing to do with appearances. I suppose the years I spent there have enabled me to appreciate the inner qualities of the people."

Rumiko's biggest concern is that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks felled some of the once-kinetic city's vigor.

"I want very much to join New Yorkers in helping the city regain the energy it has always had," she says. "I love the city now even more than I did before (the attacks) because the people were even more helpful to one another than I had expected."

For young Japanese who want to study abroad or pursue an overseas career, Rumiko advises they never lose sight of their dreams.

"Time flies, so never waste the days you have," she says. "Especially if you are in New York, you will have to be responsible for yourself because no one will tell you to do-or not to do-anything."

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